Νικῶμεν – Peter H. Reilly

The following poem was written by my 14 year old brother, Peter H. Reilly. It’s theme is the Battle of Marathon and Pheidippides’ run from Marathon to Athens. For those, who don’t yet know Greek (start learning!), the title means “We are victorious!,”and the final line means “Hail, We are victorious!”

Νικῶμεν

Black ships rising, on floating crests of white,
Datis lands in Eretria, a phantom of the night.
At Temenos, Aigilia, and Choereae
The Persian fleet he lands.
The Persians with their horses fair
Set foot in Argive sands.

Short spears waiving, waiving before the gates
‘Till Euphorbus and Philagrus sign Eretria’s fate.
Through the gates the host rides
While burning temples down,
Enthralling the inhabitants,
No mercy to be found.

Swift ships turning, turning in the tide
Datis sails to Attica, his glory magnified.
At Marathon he disembarks
For Athens he must take.
Darius drops a heavy stone
In a shallow lake.

Greek men marching beneath a dark grey sky,
Miltiades leading hosts to victory or to die.
Rank on rank in lines they march
Their gaze fixed straight ahead.
For glory, honor, justice
Their blood they now will shed.

The Greek force is rushing, charging from on high.
They fall upon the Persians below, a mighty battle cry!
Plataeans leading the left wing,
Callimachus on the right,
Miltiades in the center line
Into that immortal fight.

Datis is laughing when he sees them run.
The Persians are scoffing as they watch them come.
Then rank meets rank and bronze bites bronze,
And at the Athenians’ plight,
Even Ares, the god of war,
Now for fear takes flight.

Bronze armor ringing, ringing in the air,
Spears and swords hacking, through flesh and bone they tear.
The Greeks like lions roaring
Raging through the lines
Of the Persians trembling,
For anguish fills their minds.

Persian triremes burning, now burning on the coast,
Datis sailing in the South with his remaining host.
Rays of light are piercing
Through lifeless clouds’ death grey,
And fall upon the Argive shores
As the Persians flee away.

 These things are rushing though my mind
While my feet fly o’er the ground.
What is this I have left behind,
This blood-stained battle field?

Is this the temple of all glory,
That state of man’s desire?
Or another a page in history,
Doomed to dust, decay and fire?

Is it in the poet’s writings
That a soldier has his end?
Or is war but another means,
A country to defend?

Where does glory and honor lie,
If not in the valiant fight?
In what can men have hope, who die,
But the remembrance of their might?

If these conceptions of all men
Have thus been misconceived,
In what then can this day’s dead hope,
If it be false what we believed?

Is this all or is there more,
Something deeper still?
Is there hope in man’s glory,
Or is man’s end death’s cold chill?

These things are rushing through my mind
While my feet fly o’er the ground.
While passing time has found me blind
To answers still unfound.

Now as I enter through Athens’ gates
That city of wisdom,
I pray to find the answers here:
“Xαίρετε νικώμεν!…”

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2 comments

  1. Craig Destree · · Reply

    As Thanksgiving was just yesterday, I would like to say how grateful I am that the renaissance of classical education has begun, with Catholics at the helm.

    God bless your brother and his education.

  2. Mark Macik · · Reply

    That is truly awesome! A very good job.

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